Sunday, August 7, 2011
Updated: August 8, 6:28 PM ET
Derrick Mason sees Jets in Super Bowl
By Jane McManus
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Derrick Mason didn't make it easy on the New York Jets, making them wait three days as he mulled several offers, but he ultimately got on board because of a Super Bowl vision he shares with coach Rex Ryan.
"This is an opportunity I'm coming to (at) the end of my career," Mason said.
"I can still play a lot of good football but I wanted to try to take every opportunity to try to win the Super Bowl. And for me this was the best place to try to do that."
If it sounds like he is buying what Ryan is selling, the two have spoken quite a bit recently.
On Saturday morning, two days after the team cut veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery to make room for Mason, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum asked Ryan to call Mason again and make the sales pitch. So Ryan complied, but even as he was on the phone with the undecided wide receiver, he could hear the beeps of another call from a nervous Tannenbaum trying to get through.
Tannenbaum can finally relax.
The pitch from the Baltimore connection worked, and on Sunday Mason was at the Jets' practice facility in Florham Park cementing a two-year deal. You could still hear Ryan's words echoed in the reason that Mason gave for breaking the tie in his mind with several offers on the table.
For the past six seasons, Mason has played wide receiver for the Ravens, and his tenure overlapped with Ryan's as defensive coordinator before Ryan took the head job with the Jets in 2009. Ryan brought a few Ravens like Jim Leonard and Bart Scott with him to start, and Mason knows them as well.
"I'm familiar with Rex, I'm familiar with a few of these players around here, I played with them, and I'm familiar with this team, playing against them," Mason said. "So why not join a team that has been to the AFC Championship Game the last two years? After a while it became just a no-brainer."
When Baltimore cut him, the 37-year-old said it hurt. But he ultimately concluded that it was just business. Last season he had 61 catches for 802 yards. In 2009, he had 73 catches for 1,028 yards. In the past 10 seasons, he's had 8 years with 1,000 yards or more.
"Was I blindsided? Yeah, I was," Mason said. "If you're blindsided you're upset about it, it could be with any job."
Baltimore was back in the final mix of suitors, but Mason is ready to move on.
With the Jets, Mason realizes that Santonio Holmes is the slot receiver. Ryan's sales pitch included that everyone would get touches and the chance to make plays. As an effective slot receiver, Mason feels like he complements Holmes and Plaxico Burress.
"His role is not to come in here as the No. 3 receiver," Ryan said. "He's going to come in and build on what we already have with our first two guys and be right there with them. It's those three in the starting group."
Mason said he planned to start practicing with the Jets on Monday. He would have tried to get out there Sunday afternoon but all the travel involved before making the decision had been taxing. Still, given the Jets' recent success, Mason feels like he's in the right spot.
"The funds wasn't necessarily No. 1 on my list," Mason said. "No. 1 on my list was to win and win quickly."
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.